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Meet Susan Smith, Owner of Lee’s Family Bakery, South Shields.

Lee’s Family Bakery

“It was really tough and quite relentless, but we carried on because we wanted to ensure our regulars got the items they needed as well as our new influx of customers. We really felt like we had a duty to serve and help the public – we still do.”

Lee’s Family Bakery, located on Stanhope Road in South Shields, is a well-loved, third generation, family business. Here, Susan Smith, who runs the bakery alongside her dad, David, explains how the pandemic has impacted their business. Reminding us all that we need to do our bit to help keep the North East open and #BeatCovidNE.

Q. How has your business been affected by Covid-19?

Overnight, our lives completely changed. While we’ve always been a busy small bakery, serving our wonderful local community, we became so much busier as demand for our provisions skyrocketed. When the first lockdown came into play in March 2020, many people couldn’t get their hands on bread, flour and other essential baking items from their supermarkets, so they turned to us. 

Me and my dad were working 14-hour shifts, six days a week to help meet the needs of the local community. We were short staffed too as three members of our team had to shield at home from the virus. It was really tough and quite relentless, but we carried on because we wanted to ensure our regulars got the items they needed as well as our new influx of customers.

We really felt like we had a duty to serve and help the public – we still do. We did offer furlough to our employees who were able to come to work but they decided to continue and have worked nonstop to help local people in need as we continue to supply a wide range of bakery goods under strict Covid-safe conditions. 

Q. What challenges have you faced?

We’ve faced many challenges along the way, from sourcing PPE to increasing deliveries for stock and overseeing staff safety.

During the pandemic there’s been a huge shortage of truck drivers which has affected the number of deliveries we’ve received so we’ve had to always think ahead to ensure we’ve had plenty of stock to meet ongoing demand.

We took a lot of work on ourselves to protect our employees as much as we could both physically and mentally. To ensure utmost safety for the team and our customers, we had to adjust our usual working hours and the way staff normally worked. Social distancing measures were put in place and only a certain number of people are in the bakery at any one time.

Q. Why is it important for your businesses to keep Covid safety practices in place after the lifting of restrictions?

Although we’re in a much stronger position than last year because of the vaccine, I still think it’s important to live and work in a Covid safe way. Although legally we don’t have to have any specific Covid measures in place, we have continued to follow the processes we created at the very beginning of the pandemic. Our customers want to feel safe too and welcome the measures staying in place. So if you pop into our bakery you’ll see staff in PPE, restricted capacity on the number of customers allowed into the shop at any one time, and other social distancing measures.

Q. Why are you supporting the Keep the North East Open campaign?

We’re supporting the campaign because we think it’s so important to maintain awareness of Covid, the serious risk the virus poses and get the message across that everyone must remain vigilant so that we can, as a community, beat Covid together. Covid is still out there, circulating and we must do all we can to stop the spread.

This is our region, our communities, our local businesses and it’s up to us to look after them. Together we can Keep the North East Open. 

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